HOLMDEL, NJ—When a band can make something extraordinary out of their songs onstage and they become above and beyond their original intention, that’s an achievement. Only few bands can truly do it well. Matchbox Twenty was one of them. Rob Thomas’ solo band is filled with strong musicians, but they don’t seem to gel with him. It doesn’t seem Thomas carried that performing ability with him when he decided on a solo career. Thomas can hold his own, don’t get me wrong, he’s one of today’s most talented songwriters. It just feels like Adam Gaynor, Kyle Cook, Brian Yale and Paul Doucette were a large blanket wrapped around him. Take that away and the warmth is gone.
Jewel opened the night at PNC Bank Arts Center with hits like “Hands,” “Standing Still,” the surprisingly more bubblegum pop than folksy “Intuition” and her first hit, that she wrote while hitchhiking in Mexico for Spring Break at age 16 (and had her signed to Atlantic Records at 18), “Who Will Save Your Soul.” She seems to be a gentle soul and she gave a more than soulful performance. Openly admitting that offstage she’s a very shy individual, she certainly leaves that part of her behind the curtains and exudes a sense of wit and charm, including funny anecdotes between songs.
With Thomas performing Matchbox Twenty hits like “3am” and “Push,” solo hits like “Lonely No More,” “This Is How A Heart Breaks” and “Ever The Same” with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” even thrown in the mix among many well-known cover songs, you can’t really go wrong. Maybe he doesn’t have enough of his own defining solo material yet, but he finds ways of making up for it. He even brought Jewel onstage to sing with him. Coaxing her onto the stage, he went into “Hey Jude” with the audience, for which he twisted it into “Hey Jewel.” Although she faltered and didn’t hold up her end of the song, Thomas was quick enough to roll right into the Na, na na na na na na’s and be done with it. Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” suited them much better and all went smoothly from there. On the whole, Thomas and Jewel complement each other well and seem to balance out each other’s faults.
The shifting lights and backdrop during Thomas’ set no doubt added somewhat of an aura to the show. You couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the swirls of rainbow colors, the stars or the big “RT” logo that rotated in the background from song to song. It gave the show some oomph and added to the atmosphere of the warm spring night.
A special thank you goes out to Jason, for making my job easier.